top of page

How To Start a Freelance Business

In this article:

  • 8 detailed steps that you can take to set up your freelance business

  • How to set business goals, develop your portfolio and much more

Deciding to start your freelance business is the most exciting step, and it’s also the easiest. But the next step is the hardest, which is getting your business off the ground.

It’s easy to see why so many people have turned to freelancing to generate income. The freelance world can be liberating for many workers, offering freedom, flexibility, and control over your earnings.

However, a successful freelance business can’t be built overnight. In this uncertain job market, it takes a clear strategy to earn those kinds of benefits. Let’s explore the basics of how to set up a freelance business.

The 8-Step Approach To Starting a Freelance Business

If you're wondering how to start a freelance business, the answer isn't always simple. You could take countless paths to get to your goal career.

With that being said, there are still some basic steps you can take to build a powerful foundation for your online business. Taking this simple but effective eight-step approach can bring you one step closer to starting a freelance business.

1. Start By Considering Why You Want To Become a Freelancer

Without the right motivation, skillset, and dedication, it might not be realistic to put your freelance business plan into action. It’s important to be honest with yourself about why you want this.

Ask yourself some questions — including the hard ones — before you commit to starting this business:

  • What benefits do you hope to get out of this?

  • How much time and effort are you prepared to put into this?

  • Are you comfortable with some level of instability?

  • Are you keeping your day job or committing full-time?

  • Are you prepared to self-direct your work schedule?

  • Do you have a financial cushion to get through difficult times?

2. Identify a Profitable Niche

As freelancing becomes more popular, it also becomes much more competitive. That means some industries may require a narrower approach.

For example, a copywriter who writes all content is much less likely to be successful than one who shows expertise by specializing in a particular niche. Some writers focus on lifestyle content, while others focus on tech. This can also apply to content types, like social media posts vs. blog posts. The same thing can be applied to other freelancing skills, from coding to graphic design.

To come up with the right freelance business idea, you need to first hone in on a niche — one that’s profitable, too. While you don’t need to be an expert already in that particular niche, it helps to pick something that you already have a deep understanding of. At the very least, it should be something you're passionate about.

3. Invest in Growing Your Technical Skills

To make a freelance career work, you need to start out with solid technical skills. This isn’t the kind of job where you can learn as you go — you won’t have a training period or a boss to supervise your work.

Most companies will turn to freelancers because they need someone with specialized expertise. If you’re not providing that value, clients will look elsewhere.

Before you jump into the business side of things, you need to invest in those technical skills. Whatever skills you have that could impress your prospective clients, do everything you can to hone them. Read books, take a course, or search for resources online.

4. Set Reasonable Goals for Your Freelancing Business

The prospect of setting up an entire business structure can be a daunting one. Instead of tackling it all at once, it can help to break up the process into a set of reasonable goals, both short-term and long-term.

Long-term goals give you something to strive towards. For example, you could aim to reach a certain income goal within the next 12 months.

On the other hand, short-term goals can keep you accountable for the day-to-day work it takes to reach those goals. For example, you could set a short-term goal of joining three freelance platforms, or spending at least 10 hours each week reaching out to freelance clients.

While these goals should be ambitious enough to drive your growth, they should also be attainable. For the best results, brainstorm some goals that are specific and easy to measure. If you need some help staying organized and on top of these goals, using the right software tools for freelancers can help.

5. Determine a Fair Rate for Your Services and Adjust When Necessary

Setting a fair price means understanding the value of your services, along with how much your ideal clients are willing to pay in the competitive market. The right hourly rate will offset your business expenses while also compensating you fairly for the expertise you bring to the table. It should also be low enough to keep you competitive in the market.

Coming up with a pricing structure isn't just a challenge for beginner freelancers. Even the most experienced freelancers are constantly reassessing and adjusting their rates as time goes on.

6. Reach Out to Potential Clients and Build a Personal Network

No matter how impressive your skills are, it’s hard to turn that value into a business if you don’t have customers. Networking — virtual or in-person — can help you reach your target market and start building a network of prospective clients.

While networking can be intimidating when you’re new to the business, it’s an essential part of the process. Aim to attend at least one networking event each month, if not more, to build your list of contacts. Now that we've entered the digital age, networking can also take place entirely online. Try to set aside at least a few hours each week to reach out to potential clients by email, LinkedIn, or other professional networking sites.

7. Develop an Online Portfolio as You Gain Experience

As you start to gain experience with clients, it's time to develop an online portfolio. Pick a handful of your best projects and put them together on a website or dedicated portfolio website. Something as simple as a Squarespace or WordPress site can be enough to host an impressive portfolio.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have much to work with, you don’t necessarily need to have worked with clients to have examples for your portfolio. Dust off some old projects and revitalize them, or just create an entirely new project from scratch — no client needed.

8. Create a Marketing Strategy and Maintain an Online Presence

It might not be as exciting as working on new projects, but the reality of freelancing is devoting a significant amount of time to promotion.

As you consider the different marketing tactics, think about where your clients are most likely to go. Which social media platforms would they gravitate toward? What kind of content are they most likely to consume?

Then, block off a few hours of your time each week to devote to your strategy. Whether it’s building your website traffic through SEO or growing a social media following, quality marketing takes time and dedication.

Get the Advice You Need To Become a Successful Freelancer

Being a freelancer can come with significant rewards, from being your own boss to earning extra income. But it takes dedication, passion, and an effective strategy to reach success. No matter what approach you take, you’re bound to hit at least a few roadblocks.

Despite the setbacks, you have to focus on what matters — delivering value to your customers. It’s not going to be easy, but if you do it the right way, you can make it worth your while.

Growing your freelance career is hard enough, but being a business owner can be even harder. From landing the next big client to filing your own freelance taxes for the first time, Noumena is here to help. Our app creates a space for freelancers to network, create professional relationships, learn new skills, and consider flexible finance options to expand their business. Take the leap towards financial freedom and join our freelancer community.